O'Connor: Making space for innovation (Journal Record)

The word “innovation” is used frequently to describe a new product, technology or service. Imagine what innovation might look like when you apply it to an entire 1.3-square-mile district.

The Brookings Institution, along with the Project for Public Spaces, recently released the findings of their 18-month study on Oklahoma City’s proposed Innovation District. The designated area connects the Oklahoma Health Center on the east side of Interstate 235 to Automobile Alley on the west. But the Innovation District is so much more than a physical location. It is a new way of thinking about public spaces and opportunities for collaboration. It is focused on creating a magnetic hub, with walkable spaces and inviting spaces to gather – the kind of place where innovative businesses and skilled workers are attracted.

One of the report’s recommendations is to establish an Oklahoma Center for Energy and Health collaboration. The research, educational opportunities and entrepreneurial potential of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and GE Oil and Gas Technology Center can be enhanced by looking at potential collaborations. Oklahoma City leaders supported this bold idea by approving a tax increment financing district. It is the third TIF allocated to this area. The existing TIFs (ones that will expire in five years) helped launch a research park that is now part of the OU medical campus and helped fund infrastructure as part of the new GE Global Oil and Gas Research Center.

The new financing fills in the gaps of the existing TIFs and expands the approved area. Also, it includes funding for education and workforce development – something no other Oklahoma City TIF has provided. This component is critical to the success of the Innovation District and our role in helping prepare our workforce to contribute to the development and economic growth of our city.

We all benefit by making our city more competitive through investing in collaborative partnerships; encouraging health and technology companies, entrepreneurs and startup companies to locate in the Innovation District; and by developing a workforce that can be a part of our economic success. We will take innovation to another level – one that will be synonymous with Oklahoma City.

Cathy O’Connor is the president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.

Read the piece at journalrecord.com.

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